How to Choose a Restaurant Concept

Cesar Haro

There are lots of different restaurant concepts – from a restaurant food truck design to classic fine dining establishments. When deciding to open a new restaurant, how do you pick the right concept? Too many times people pick a restaurant concept before finding out if it is the right fit for their location. For example, deciding to open a bakery/coffee house in a small town that already has three other bakeries that are highly successful.

Just like writing a business plan for a new restaurant, you should do your homework before deciding on a final restaurant concept.

Study the Competition

What types of restaurants are already established in your area? Are there already lots of pizza places or Mexican themed restaurants? If your concept isn’t different from the competition, how are you going to stand out from the rest? Learn as much as you can about every other restaurant in your area—their menus, price range, and customer service style. Even if you don’t fancy a particular restaurant, many people do, so you need to find out why.

Decide How Much to Spend on a Restaurant Concept

Certain restaurant concepts will cost more than others. For example, do you want to specialize in authentic wood fired pizza? A wood fired oven is thousands of dollars more expensive than a regular pizza oven. Does your restaurant menu require expensive ingredients like seafood or steaks?

Even if you qualify for a huge loan to open a new restaurant, don’t burden yourself with a huge loan payment each month, because you don’t know how busy you really will be until you are open for several months. It’s great to dream big when thinking of a new restaurant concept, but starting small may be the wisest option.

Keep Your Focus

The first restaurant I ever worked at was a bakery by day and Italian restaurant by night. It even changed names! I would answer the phone at 4pm “Hello, The Bakery!” and at 5pm I’d answer “Hello, Luigi’s!” This was very confusing to customers. Eventually, Luigi’s was dropped and The Bakery is still a thriving dinner establishment. With all the restaurant fads that come and go, it’s tempting to open a restaurant featuring the hottest food trend. Recall the mid-1990s, when coffee houses popped up everywhere and suddenly every mom and pop restaurant featured cappuccino. Starbucks rose to prominence during this time, but all the rest? Where are they now?